Can Dominic Thiem follow up his title-winning performance in Beijing with another strong week in Shanghai? The world No. 5 opens his campaign against Pablo Carreno Busta on Wednesday.
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Thiem has never gone beyond the second round in Shanghai, and is on a three-match losing streak at the ATP Masters 1000 tournament- can he take down the tough Carreno-Busta and pick up his first win in Shanghai since beating Yen-Hsun Lu in 2015?
The Austrian may be in good form from Beijing, but Carreno-Busta’s form isn’t bad either, as the Spaniard was champion in Chengdu a couple of weeks ago. This is a very tough opener for Thiem. The 26-year-old will be looking to avoid a third successive opening round exit in Shanghai, as he had fallen to Viktor Troicki in 2017 and to Matthew Ebden in 2018.
Thiem has traditionally struggled around this period of the year, but he will take plenty of confidence from his performances in Beijing, especially in his last two matches against Karen Khachanov and Stefanos Tsitsipas, when he had to dig deep and fight back from being a set and a break down. He also had to survive an awkward quarter final challenge against Andy Murray, but he came through that as well before battling past Khachanov and Tsitsipas for his first title in Asia.
Thiem’s Beijing triumph was his fourth title of the season, as he had earlier won titles at Indian Wells, Barcelona and Kitzbuhel. Those were the highs, but there have been lows as well, like at the start of the year when struggled with illness and had to retire from a second round meeting with Alexei Popyrin at the Australian Open. Having limped to a 3-4 record through the first two months of the year, Thiem produced a spectacular riposte in March, going on to claim his maiden Masters 1000 title at Indian Wells. He had a typically productive time on clay, winning Barcelona and Kitzbuhel, and making the French Open final for the second straight year, but he suffered an opening round loss at Wimbledon to Sam Querrey in an admittedly tough draw, and fell ill again during the North American hard court season, culminating in a first round defeat to Thomas Fabbiano at the US Open.
He’s healthy amd playing well again, and will seek a sixth straight win when he takes on Carreno Busta on Wednesday.
The signs were promising for Carreno Busta when he reached the fourth round of the Australian Open in January, but he would not win another match until the French Open in May.
The Spaniard picked up a shoulder injury in Cordoba- his next tournament after the Australian Open- and missed over two months as a result. He returned to the tour in April, but lost the first four matches of his comeback in Barcelona, Estoril, Madrid and Rome.
The former top-ten player finally got back to winning ways at the French Open, where he made the third round, and has been a lot more consistent since then. Carreno Busta reached semi-finals in Antalya and Hamburg, while a decent North American hard court swing included a quarter final in Winston-Salem and third round runs in Cincinnati and the US Open. He also made a quarter final in Metz, before going on to claim his first title of the season in Chengdu.
The former US Open semi-finalist was beaten by David Goffin in his Tokyo opener, but he bounced back with a three-set win over Ze Zhang, recording his first ever win in Shanghai in the process. The Spaniard had fallen in the opening round in each of his three previous visits, but he’s finally got over that hurdle in 2019, and will now seek back-to-back wins when he takes on Thiem on Wednesday.
The problem with that quest is that he’s got a poor head-to-head against Thiem, which reads 5-0 in the Austrian’s favour. I thought their head-to-head should be tighter as Carreno Busta has the steadiness and the athleticism to frustrate Thiem into rash errors, but the Beijing champion has obviously found a route through the Spaniard. Thiem is in a good space at the moment, and like he showed in Beijing, when he find his range, he can muscle through any defence.
Carreno Busta has taken a set of Thiem in four of those five previous tour-level meetings- that may well be the case again, but Thiem should have a bit too much firepower in the end.
Dominic Thiem vs Pablo Carreno Busta is live from Shanghai on Wednesday, 9 October from 8:00pm local time/ 1:00pm BST